Global leadership – fit or flexible

In selecting people for global leadership positions one of the big questions is: what are we looking for, “fit” or “flexibility”?

If we are looking for “fit” for a particular location or role then we might be looking for a global leader to fit a particular cultural profile or who can work comfortably in that style. This may lead us to recruit someone well suited for that role, but is that really global leadership?

If we select someone on the basis of fit, we might find that a global leader that works in one location will be a disaster in another. The skills that make an effective leader in California might be very different from the skills that make a leader effective in China.

It’s also difficult to predict how well an individual will fit into a role or culture unless they have done it already. We all know of strong, almost stereotypical characters, who have been successful against the odds in very challenging cultures.

However when we have a vacancy and an urgent need to get someone capable into the role it can be easy to fall into the trap of looking for fit to a particular assignment, rather than flexibility to develop true global leadership capabilities.

The other approach is to search for flexibility, the ability to adapt to a wide range of situations and contexts. Flexibility gives global leadership an ability to be effective in many different environments.

However it is also clear that an important element of local or global leadership is authenticity – the ability to be yourself and to act consistently over time. If we pursue only flexibility in global leadership then where is our core of authenticity?
If we are “all things to all men” can we also be good at global leadership?

How does your organization represent the balance between fit and flexibility in the way you select, assess and train people for global leadership positions?
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Global leadership – fit or flexible

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